The Ultimate Guide to Building a Top Manufacturing Sales Team

Jan 24, 2020

The manufacturing industry is at a crossroads. An increase in competition and pricing pressures has created a more challenging environment for sales.

However, building the right sales team is one way to help combat the challenges to come. They can create relationships and clearly explain your benefits in a way that communicates the true value of what you’re selling.

Manufacturing sales can still be a lucrative market for those who know how to properly set up a team, provide the right training, and use effective tools. With the right prospecting tools and the know-how to formulate sales leads in manufacturing, most sales teams can succeed.

We created the ultimate guide to lead you through the process of creating a sales team for your manufacturing business, complete with manufacturing sales tips and strategies. Here’s what you need to know to have a profitable year:

Set Up Your Sales Team

As your company begins to grow, it might take some time to realize that you need a sales team. It can also be an intimidating step for most business leaders: with the greater opportunity for profit comes more overhead and responsibility.

How do you know you’re ready? There are three major signs that you are prepared for a sales team:

·      Your product is performing well in the marketplace.

·      You struggle to keep up with customer demand.

·      You have enough pipeline opportunity to afford another rep.

Your pipeline is a dead giveaway to help determine whether more sales reps make sense for your business. Take a look at your numbers to decide whether you can afford more members to your team.

Determine Your Team Type

Once you decide that more sales reps make sense for your business, decide on the best structure for your teams. The manufacturing industry requires field sales that can visit potential clients to give a demo and show the product.

Most sales teams are typically broken down into one of three structures: The Assembly Line, The Island, and The Pod. We broke down which each one means, plus the pros and cons.

The Assembly Line

In the Assembly Line, the sales team type gives every person in the team a separate job: lead generation, sales development, account executive, customer success, etc. Like a traditional  assembly line, leads make their way through each department on their customer journey.


·      Since everyone is working together, it helps to foster a team-focused atmosphere.

·      It allows for specialization and the ability to become an expert in a specific aspect of selling.

·      Businesses can utilize each team members’ strengths.

·      Leaders can more quickly and accurately analyze each part of the selling process.


·      Customers will not create deep relationships with one sales rep since they interact with everyone.

·      Not ideal for small companies who cannot afford to have an employee for every part of the sales process.

The Assembly Line can be helpful for companies that want a uniform process where everyone works as a team. However, it is not ideal for building personal relationships with clients.

The Island

The Island is on the other end of the spectrum. It’s the more traditional sales model that allows each sales rep to handle leads from start to finish. Each salesperson is solely responsible for their customers, which gives them both freedom and pressure to perform.


·      Sales reps can create deeper relationships with their clients.

·      An ideal structure for companies with fewer resources.

·      Each team member can have a customized territory, which gives them the chance to build up a reputation and expertise in an area.


·      Harder to develop new talent, since each rep is on their own.

·      Risk customer churn if a rep leaves.

·      The sales rep’s personality will largely determine the customer’s experience, which means there’s a lack of uniformity across your brand.

The Island sales structure gives sales reps the ability to maintain a relationship with your customers throughout the entire buyer’s journey. Each salesperson has more freedom to do what they need to make a sale, but that means leadership has less control over the sales process.

The Pod

The Pod sales team structure is a mixture between the Assembly Line and Pod, and it attempts to harness the strengths of both. The Pod consists of small groups of sales reps, where each member specializes in a specific part of the sales process. Each team then works together to acquire customers and reach their sales goals. Within each “pod,” members will generate leads, close deals, and onboard new customers.


·      Fosters a team spirit within each team since they are accomplishing goals together.

·      Better communication.

·      It allows greater flexibility for each team.

·      More senior members can help foster young talent.


·       Lack of competition within the group might cause team members to lose their edge.

·       The team structure breaks down if there are communication problems.

As businesses grow, the Assembly Line structure can become too large and unwieldy. The Pod structure helps to maintain the structure of the Assembly Line on a larger scale.

Manufacturing Sales Rep Salary

Landing on the right salary is critical for attracting the right kind of talent. Many companies tie compensation to overall performance through the use of commission or bonuses. This pay structure helps encourage and reward better performance.

Typically, the average compensation for a sales rep depends on the product being sold. According to College Grad, the average salary for wholesale and manufacturing sales is $58, 510, with the lowest 10% earning less than $29,140 and the highest 10% earning more than $122,770.

However, manufacturing technical and scientific products typically earns significantly more. The average annual wage is $79,680. The lowest 10% earn less than $39,960, and the highest 10% earn more than $156,630.

Where your company fits along this spectrum of pay depends on a variety of factors:

·       Sales budget

·       Specialty and education required

·       Cost of living in your area

·       Team and organization goals

A competitive salary and compensation program can be useful for attracting new talent, and how you compensate your sales reps will affect how motivated your team will stay. Research shows that caps on commissions can have a detrimental effect on sales and productivity. In addition, ratcheting quotas (or adjusting quotas after sales reps exceed them the previous quarter) can also cause frustration for your sales team.

Put Together a Hiring Process

A poor fit can hurt an otherwise good company. Experts estimate that a bad hire costs at least 200% of the employee’s first-year earnings. In addition to firing and hiring a replacement, a poor fit could hurt team morale and potentially cause a detrimental shift in the company culture.

While it might not always be possible to spot a bad fit for your company initially, a reliable hiring process can help you avoid it most of the time.

To begin with, decide whether you would like to hire personally or outsource. A recruiter or headhunter could be useful in helping you find top talent. They often have connections and hiring skills to help you acquire solid sales reps. They could also save you the time it takes to find and hire talent. However, they may lack the expertise in your industry to understand and find a good fit for manufacturing sales.

A repeatable hiring process can help save you the time and headache that it takes to get new members to your sales team.

Find the Right Reps for Your Business

Many companies come up with a list of qualities they expect from their sales reps: charismatic, outgoing, empathetic, aggressive. However, research shows that sales success is not tied to a specific personality. Instead, it is about those who engage and are willing to put in the work to sell.

Instead of looking for certain personality traits in your next hire, consider their skills instead. If a potential hire has a willingness to learn and grow, they are far more likely to be a better fit and pay off in the long run.

Working knowledge of your products and business can also be a significant factor in finding the right sales rep. Manufacturing requires a certain level of technical expertise. Depending on what is being manufactured (technology, for example), the knowledge may be indispensable.

While sales training can provide valuable knowledge and expertise, the more knowledge that your potential hire has to begin with will make the process faster and easier.

Once you have hired a sales team, there are still ways that you can ensure that they continue to contribute to your company and team culture. Some ways include:

Encourage Autonomy

While your sales team should learn the helpful techniques, skills, and information to make them successful, not every part of their job should be set in stone. By giving your sales reps some autonomy, they’ll have the freedom to find out what works best for them. They may even find more efficient and effective practices to bring to the team.

While most businesses want structure and streamlined customer experience, unimaginative teams are stuck only doing things that worked in the past. As a result, your company may miss out on ways to grow or address a changing market.

Make clear to your sales team what processes and procedures are essential to their job and where they have the freedom to experiment. The innovation will ensure that your organization continues to grow.

Utilize Mentorship

Mentorship can be a powerful tool for your whole sales team. Experienced sales reps have the knowledge and skills that only time on the job can provide. They can instill some of this hard-won wisdom to new members of the team that help them scale up quickly. It also creates a better work environment where employees are working together for a better company outcome rather than competing against each other.

To encourage mentorship in your business, consider incentives for mentors. They may be hesitant to spend valuable time in mentorship, so compensation might help motivate them to invest in new hires fully. For example, you can set up bonuses for mentors that are tied to the performance of a new trainee. Bonuses based on overall team performance might also encourage mentors to help green sales reps.

Training Your Team

While you may have put in the work to build an optimal team structure and the right hires, the ideal training can help ensure success for your sales reps. The proper training can empower your sales team to make the best decisions for your company to land more clients.

Manufacturing typically requires more in-depth training than typical sales professions. Training should focus on your offerings, how exactly your product works, and what makes it stand apart from the competition. Ensure that your team understands the product thoroughly so that they can explain it to leads and customers. If your reps only have a vague idea of the product they’re selling, leads will be far more likely to walk away from your company.

Manufacturing sales is a highly competitive field. Consider using a professional training program to give your team the edge they need to succeed. Depending on how new your company and experienced your leadership is in the field, you may want to harness the skills of the experts.

There are sales training programs that are geared specifically towards the manufacturing and B2B industries. Sales training offers an impressive ROI: reps that complete a highly rated program enjoy a 10% higher win rate over those who have not.

Some training programs for manufacturing sales include:

·      Richardson’s

·      Score More Sales—a program geared specifically for sales leaders in manufacturing.

·      RAIN Group

·      The Brooks Group

They can all provide the specialized training needed. These programs are especially crucial in the beginning so that your team doesn’t suffer while you try to figure out the best way to make sales. They can provide tried-and-true methods specific to the manufacturing industry.

Top Tech for your Sales Team

It’s not enough to hire the right sales team and give them training: they need the right tools to succeed, especially in manufacturing. Technology enables your reps to reach maximum productivity and make the best use of their time. It takes the repetitive and redundant tasks off of their plate so they can spend more time selling.

A CRM is essential in this day and age. Salesforce, Microsoft, Zoho, and Hubspot all offer CRMs that can help your sales reps get the most out of their customer lists. However, beyond CRM, some useful manufacturing sales tools include:

·      Handshake. Handshake’s mobile app for reps provides invaluable tools in the manufacturing sales world. Salespeople can access a navigable digital catalog from their phone, write orders, and check on order histories.

·      Calendly. Clients can quickly and easily schedule time with your sales team through Calendly. It also integrates with Mailchimp, Zapier, and Salesforce to automatically trigger events. For example, you can automatically trigger an email after a meeting to follow up or send needed paperwork ahead of a presentation.

·      Evernote. Sales reps in manufacturing are always on the go. Evernote provides a convenient location for them to store valuable information from anywhere. Users can create audio notes, manage to-do lists, organize sales notes, and more from their phones.

·      Mention. Social media is increasingly becoming indispensable for sales. However, keeping up with the constant stream of information can be a significant time waster. Mention, however, alerts your sales team when there is activity from prospects, competitors, or even their own business. It works across all social media to save you time, so you don’t have to scroll continuously.

·      DocuSign. When your sales team is out of the office, it might be a struggle to get the signatures needed to finish a sale. DocuSign provides the convenience of signing a document from anywhere. No more emailing, faxing, or mailing documents back and forth: DocuSign provides all the signatures you need in one convenient location.

·     Map My Customers. Manufacturing sales teams are often out on the road. Minimize traffic, driving time, and headaches with Map My Customers. Our app maps out the best sales routes to cut down on windshield time. It can be used as a standalone CRM or with the most popular CRMs around.

With the right technology, your sales team can be faster and more useful than ever. You can make sure that they have the support they need to be spending their time doing what you want them to do: selling.

Manufacturing Sales Leads

Lead generation is an essential aspect of growing your customer base and business. To make sure that your sales are optimized, set strategic goals for your lead generation. Whether you quantify by leads by month, quarter, or year, your business should continue to reach more potential customers.

However, lead generation goals should be progressive. You don’t want to shoot too high in the beginning and end up discouraged when you fail to meet your goals. Instead, build each month or quarter on each other to slowly grow your goals.

Setting a goal is one thing, but how to formulate sales leads in manufacturing is another. Some ways to improve your lead generation include:

Content Generation

Lead generation is notoriously tricky in manufacturing. The issue lies with the fact that the buyer journey is no longer as linear as it once was. In the past, if a customer wanted to find out more about a product, they would contact a sales rep. Now, though, most buyers do a significant amount of research online before they ever speak with a company.

This is especially true with B2B customers. They are typically 70% of the way through the decision-making process before ever speaking with your sales team. This is why website content is a crucial lead generation strategy. The right content will help ensure that their online research leads them directly to you.

Manufacturing companies are not usually known for their online presence. Content can be a way for you to set yourself apart and gain a competitive advantage.

To help drive business, design an impactful, accessible, and useful website. Provide your readers with practical and valuable content with calls-to-action to make it easy to reach you. Also, most research is done through the phone, so be sure to make your content mobile-friendly.

Social Media

Buying email lists and cold calling customers will likely land poor results for your business. The way that most companies connect to customers is through social media. That does not mean, though, that you should be spamming everyone on LinkedIn, which will only give you similar poor results and likely get you banned from the website.

Use content and thoughtful conversation to help create warm leads. Strategically reply to threads and enter discussions. Post short articles, links, and updates to help position you as a leader in the field and help your ideal customers find you.

Social media is the new cold call. It’s a place that sets you up as a professional and puts you in touch with valuable warm leads.

Industry Events

Speak at events that your target audience is likely to attend. Business owners want reliable experts. By becoming a speaker, you can establish your credibility as a subject matter expert. Plus, speaking on subjects that matter to your customers will also make you seem more like an ally to help them succeed, rather than just selling to them.

Also, you can use the presentation to put more content on your website, whether in the form of an article or video. The amount of positive exposure you can gain as a speaker can help bring in even more leads to your company both now and in the future.

Former Customer

Often in the search for leads, the best ones to go for are the ones right in front of you. Check-in on former customers and any hot leads that went cold. Not only do you know that these are leads that at least were interested, but they also have a certain amount of knowledge about you and your product that you don’t have to explain again. This can save your team time and help drive even more sales.

Manufacturing Sales Tips

Manufacturing sales can be a competitive industry. However, with the right skills and procedures in place, your team can succeed. Some tips for manufacturing sales include:

Harness Data

The more that you can learn about your customers, the better. Most clients have come to expect personalization and businesses that deliver on that have a far better chance of succeeding. In fact, 71% of top B2B sales and marketing teams tailor their content to the customer.

Data can give your company insight and information that allow you to personalize the information and content that you send to customers.

Create Buyer Personas

Another way to use this data is to come up with helpful buyer personas. A persona helps your team identify what drives your target customers. Often, one buyer persona is not enough because there can be multiple factors that drive a customer to you.

Figure out the motivations and pain points that lead your customer to your product. These insights can drive a more efficient selling technique that will help sales to direct conversations. It can also let your sales team know whether a lead is worth their time and could use their product.

Encourage your sales reps to ask questions on their initial call to get a feel for the customer and their needs. These questions, rather than just pitching, can both help align the customer with a specific persona and further develop the personas you created.

Come Up with a Sales Cadence

Cadence management can help your team develop a more effective selling process. Manufacturing is all about efficient operation. A sales cadence can help you take this efficiency to your sales team.

Set up specific times and methods to reach out to customers. For example, switching between reaching out in the morning and afternoon, and phone and email over a set course of days make sure that you do your due diligence in reaching out without becoming a nuisance. It also increases the likelihood that you will get a hold of a potential customer.

A Sales Team for a Profitable Year

Manufacturing sales is full of challenges, but the newest techniques and technology can still allow you to have your most successful year yet. With the right teams, sales reps, and procedures in place, you can have a more efficient process and bring in even more sales.